Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Anti-Americana: You Don't Scare Us

"You Don't Scare Us" reads this Russian-language Soviet poster, vintage 1984. It shows a burly Soviet worker, with hammer and sickle on his hardhat, getting his job done, while a wormy looking American politician threatens to push "the button" while military jets labelled "US" scramble in the background. "Pushing the button" was of course shorthand for launching an apocalyptic nuclear attack against the Soviet Union.

The occasion for this poster was no doubt the disturbing "joke" played by the senile U.S. president at the time. On August 11, 1984, cold warrior Ronald Reagan made this quip during a soundcheck before his weekly radio address: "My fellow Americans I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that would outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." The audio was subsequently leaked. While it had no apparent effect on his landslide reelection in a few short months, some of us were shocked.

In time-honored tradition, President Reagan joked about committing nuclear genocide. Some of us didn't find it so funny. The poster below (I had a copy) was soon popular on the left. This was the climactic height of the cold war, an era of renewed nuclear terror when the threat of apocalypse seized the popular imagination. Check out the films "Threads" (viewable on Youtube!) and "The Day After" (Youtube link) for a taste of what it was like to live with that terror.

The cold war and threat of nuclear destruction were even repeating themes of popular music. There was Nena's "99 Luftballons" (English or original German versions) which speculated about a war being triggered by misunderstanding, or the brutally cynical "Two Tribes" (when two tribes go to war, a point is all that you can score) by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Different versions of the Frankie song were released, but here's one video version from 1983:

This all seems timely with mildly-renewed tensions between the United States and the now post-Soviet, utterly de-socialized Russian Federation. Authoritarian (elected) strongman Vladimir Putin seems to relish posturing against western imperialism, despite the fact that Russia is now far from the twin superpower it once was. One wonders whether tension over Iran and Syria, or Russia's granting of temporary asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden are markers of a sort of renewed cold-war style tension. Obama and the U.S. are pretty clear that they're holding the stronger hand of cards and so have reacted at least publically temperately, but it's also clear that the U.S. won't suffer real competition for world hegemony.

The bullying foreign policy of the U.S. is one of the reasons I've been slow to make a public stand on the developing Stoli Vodka/Olympics boycott over outrageously repressive anti-gay laws being passed by the Russian government. I'm heartened to see clarity on the part of New Zealand revolutionary queers organizing support for the boycott under the slogan "Neither Washington nor Moscow but international queer liberation." Homonationalism is a real threat in the U.S., especially given the Obama government's pro-gay posture. The Wellington Queer Avengers slogan makes it really clear that cheering on imperialism isn't a road to liberation. I'm sure I'll have more to say on this subject later.

Anyway, cold war 2? Fun times ahead, again?

Anti-Americana is a regular feature of Anti-American art from around the world here at The Cahokian.

No comments:

Post a Comment